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8° & CLEAR SKY ON TUESDAY 21 AUGUST IN SYDNEY
By Matt Abotomey
January 15, 2017
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Popina Kitchen

It's the latest eatery to open in the new Gateway Sydney complex.
By Matt Abotomey
January 15, 2017
  shares

For the last few months, Circular Quay has been the planning headquarters for a culinary culture smoosh. Now, the collaborating parties have decided to share the results. Popina Kitchen is a meeting of the minds behind Bondi's Middle Eastern cafe Shuk, and Salt Meats Cheese, Sydney's Italian empire that now has establishments all over Sydney. It opens today — Monday, December 5 — on level two of Circular Quay's new Gateway Dining precinct.

The result is a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant looking to evoke the aesthetic of its namesake — that is, small bars wine bars popular within the ancient Roman Empire (not the Serbian village with a population of less than 500, incase you were confused).

While it seems safe to assume that there will be less prostitution and gambling at this popina, there's every reason to believe the wine selection will be just as varied — if not moreso — as when Julius Caesar was having his internal organs julienned by senators. Popina Kitchen boasts a 180-bottle wine wall with a tripartite concentration on Italian, Argentinian and Australian labels. An extensive cocktail list makes use of key ingredients from the food menu and some enigmatic titles — The Italian Nod and Highlands of Aegea, for example — to broaden the experience of those looking to get a bit squiffy.

Head Chef German Sanchez (who's also on the pans at Shuk) has created a menu that refuses to sit still geographically, leapfrogging between Italian, Argentinian, Turkish, Lebanese and Israeli dishes. The mezze menu skips from Argentinian beef empanadas to coconut labne with beetroot and balsamic, while the pizza spectrum stretches from capricciosa to green tahini and lamb kofta.

Sirloin and snapper dominate the mains section — the former accompanied by escabeche veg and a soft-boiled egg, and the latter with borlotti beans and ceviche salsa. Meanwhile, dessert harbours offerings like the alfajor, a cookie sandwich with a filling of mousse and coconut ice cream that hails from Spain and Peru.

We initially reported back in June that Popina would open as a rooftop bar. That's still happening, but the rooftop space won't open until 2017 due to licensing issues. But rooftop or no, there's still a litany of reasons to, ahem, pop in.

Images: Alana Dimou. 

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